Asymetrically Expected

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

Steve Benen brings both setup and punch line, which is what it is, and he is certainly fine talent―

Republican voters opposed bombing the Assad regime in Syria, until Donald Trump took office, at which point they changed their mind. GOP voters thought the American economy was awful, until a Republican became president, at which point they suddenly reversed course.

And Gallup reported late last week that Republican voters had deeply negative attitudes about the current U.S. tax system, right before they changed their minds in early 2017.

―but come on, Republicans are making it too easy. Or perhaps this is part of their faustian bargain, that such simplicity, daring to be stranger than fiction in a distinctive context akin to denigrating parody and pantomime, is the price of their desires. To say this is how Republicans or conservatives behave—to predict or expect such simplistic behavior—merely for the basis of political affiliation ought to be some manner of offensive stereotype.

Nonetheless, two points go here: First, tax rates did not change with the presidency, as such. Second: This is not a characteristic found “on both sides”:

Under the traditional rules of the political discourse, in which both sides are always to blame in equal measure, this is supposed to be the part in which we acknowledge that Democratic voters are just as unprincipled as Republican voters, just in the opposite direction. Except, that’s quantifiably wrong: on tax fairness, Gallup found Democratic attitudes have been quite steady for many years, and didn’t change much at all after Trump took office. The same is true on polling regarding Syria and the state of the economy.

The key takeaway here isn’t a look at the polarized electorate, but rather, the asymmetric polarization.α

The really complicated part is explaining why the polarization is so asymetrically loaded. Still, though, look at what comes roaring back with the Donald Trump presidency; this is #WhatTheyVotedFor: Culture wars thought lost, business and economic theses thought molten, and a prospect of might as right. That is to say, we can find a clue in observing that the entire Republican platform has essentially brought failure for, well, up to twenty years. The last time anything went right for the right wing was probably welfare reform. Public attitudes have changed; the death of intellectual conservatism has cost conservatives. The social conservatives keep losing; the fiscal conservatives haven’t recovered, yet, after wrecking the economy last time; imperial designs and petroleum dreams have fallen to ruin; the law and order platform is down to lying openly in order to justify homicide at the hands of police; and something goes here about the difference between white supremacism and what, exactly, has happened that makes white men so apparently vulnerable a population.

And, look, perhaps it sounds irrelevant, but consider, please, complaints about gay people redefining marriage. To the one, it is not necessarily irrelevant inasmuch as Kentucky voters fret about the ACA after voting for the anti-ACA candidate, twice in a row, because they are apparently still pissed off at gay people. To the other, and perhaps more significantly, we are now in a time when we are about to redefine the concept of sexuality itself, as literature emerges explaining how men engaging in dating and sexual conduct with other men is not so much homosexual as it is an asserted affirmation of heterosexual masculinity. Nor is that a joke. There are reasons for the asymmetry.


α Benen notes Brian Beutler, also linked in the first excerpt above, who considers asymmetric polarization in the present context; see also Norm Ornstein, 2014―

Saying both sides are equally responsible, insisting on equivalence as the mantra of mainstream journalism, leaves the average voter at sea, unable to identify and vote against those perpetrating the problem. The public is left with a deeper disdain for all politics and all politicians, and voters become more receptive to demagogues and those whose main qualification for office is that they have never served, won’t compromise, and see everything in stark black-and-white terms.

―and Jonathan Chait, 2016:

The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization. Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question.

Benen, Steve. “On Syria, ‘reflexive partisanship’ doesn’t apply to both parties”. msbc. 12 April 2017.

—————. “The power of GOP partisanship captured in new polling”. msnbc. 17 April 2017.

Beutler, Brian. “#Bothsides is the most failed, destructive, opportunistic, and falsifiable analytical conceit in American politics”. The New Republic. 11 April 2017.

Chait, Jonathan. “New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd Writes Disastrous Defense of False Equivalence”. Daily Intelligencer. 12 September 2016.

Jones, Jeffrey M. “Americans Are More Positive About Their Taxes This Year”. Gallup. 13 April 2017.

Ornstein, Norm. “Yes, Polarization Is Asymmetric—and Conservatives Are Worse”. The Atlantic. 19 June 2014.

Singal, Jesse. “How Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men Explain Their Encounters”. Science of Us. 14 February 2017.

—————. “The Phenomenon of ‘Bud Sex’ Between Straight Rural Men”. Science of Us. 18 December 2016.

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